Japan: From air conditioning using snow to green vehicles and humanoid robots -- this year’s Group of Eight summit is getting the full flavour of high-tech Japan and its efforts to save the planet.
Japan sees the three-day meeting, starting today, as a golden opportunity to showcase its state-of-the-art technology and efforts to curb global warming.
A railway company was demonstrating an environmentally friendly vehicle capable of moving both on roads and railways, while Japanese automakers were offering rides in their latest hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.
At the main media centre near the summit venue in Toyako, the government is showing off Japan’s latest green products, such as a zero-emissions house, to thousands of visiting journalists from all over the world.
Visitors can also visualize global warming with five bulky globes in colours ranging from green to red that indicates how warm the Earth would be in 2100.
Fukuda was welcomed by Honda Motor’s humanoid robot Asimo as he visited the showcase ahead of the summit, which draws leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States. “Welcome to the Environmental Showcase. Please follow me,” the robot told Fukuda as it plodded along, followed by the prime minister.
All-green media centre
The $28 million media centre has an ecologically friendly design, using snow preserved under the floor since winter for natural air conditioning during the summer summit.
The building’s walls are covered with plants, wooden boards and solar panels, with artificial mist being produced outside to cool the summer heat. “Energy saving technology as well as ideas of making use of nature are our invisible treasures,” said Ryosuke Kuwana, a foreign ministry official in charge of the showcase.
Resource-scarce Japan, which soared to the rank of the world’s second largest economy through rapid industrialization, made a push into energy-saving technology in the 1970s in the wake of the oil crises.
Japan has since launched an energy-saving campaign, resulting in world-beating products such as hybrid cars running on both gasoline and electricity.
Japan’s leadership in climate change was tested in 1997 when it hosted the UN conference that gave birth to the Kyoto Protocol calling on developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ahead of this week’s summit, Japan unveiled a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80% by 2050 from current levels, but did not make any pledge for the medium term.
Japan is far behind in meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol as its economy gradually recovers from recession in the 1990s. And, when the G8 summit is over and the hordes of journalists and world leaders have gone home, the costly showcase will be dismantled.